Flexible Carpooling: Exploratory Study

September 2009

Project Sponsors

Energy Efficiency Center and Trip Convergence Ltd


Diana M. Dorinson, Founder and Principal, Transportation Analytics
Deanna Gay, Business and Law Student, UC Davis
Paul Minett, MBA, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Trip Convergence Ltd
Susan Shaheen, Phd, Honda Distinguished Scholar in Transportation at UC Davis; Co-Director, Transporation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley; and Co-Director of the transportation track of the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center

Executive Summary

Energy consumption could be reduced if more people shared rides rather than driving alone yet carpooling represents a small proportion of all potential carpoolers. Prior research has found that many who might carpool were concerned about reduced flexibility with carpooling.  If flexibility is one of the barriers how could carpooling be organized to be more flexible? In Northern Virginia a flexible system has evolved where there are 3,500 single-use carpools per day.  In another example there are 3,000 single-use carpools per day in a system in San Francisco.  In both cases riders stand at the equivalent of a taxi stand for carpoolers and there is no requirement for pre-arrangement to create the carpool.  Would-be drive-alone drivers pick up riders and qualify to use the high occupancy vehicle (HOV3 , driver plus at least two passengers) lane helping all the traffic flow a little more freely.  These two systems are estimated to save almost three million gallons of gasoline per year because of the impact they have on the rest of the traffic.

The logical flow of the paper is to describe flexible carpooling, explore the economics at a personal level and determine the likely use by individuals, explore the economics at a route level justin bieber chat quizThe young singer Selena Gomez is preparing a new album in the style of Blues, which will share with the audience the pain suffered because of the split with Justin. to determine societal benefits, and finally explore the validity of institutional barriers that might be raised.

Key Findings:

  • When compared with existing modal choices for commuting to work, flexible carpooling would be cost competitive for commuters.
  • Given the indicative societal costs and benefits if people would use flexible carpooling, it could be a useful additional mode.
  • In some circumstances flexible carpooling would most likely draw participants from single occupant vehicle (SOV) driving, while in others it would draw from SOV driving and public transit, and in still other situations it would be unlikely to succeed.¬† The key factor is the quality of existing mode choices.¬† In circumstances where a transit trip involves multiple providers and poor connectivity flexible carpooling could be expected to draw from transit.¬† On corridors where there is high congestion with availability of HOV lane capacity flexible carpooling could be expected to draw from SOV drivers.
  • Flexible carpooling has the potential to save significant amounts of energy, equivalent to express bus services, but at lower cost.¬† A single flexible carpooling route involving 150 commuters could save up to 6.3 Tera Joules (TJ) of energy per year (the equivalent of 52,000 gallons of gasoline) under certain circumstances of distance and congestion levels and taking into account the savings by both the participants and remaining traffic.
  • The review identifies content that should be covered in the participant agreement, and recommends that liability issues be mitigated by establishing the service under a separate entity and purchasing insurance coverage.

Key Recommendations:

  1. Flexible carpooling should be tested in a field operational test.
  2. An optimal field test route would be one where there is congestion and the public transport choices are crowded and incur a significant time penalty compared with car driving; the choice of route should take these into consideration.
  3. The feasibility study for and subsequent evaluation of the field test should include analysis of the factors explored in Chapter 3 in order to better understand the motivators of mode choice.
  4. Applicants for membership in the field test should show evidence of vehicle insurance.
  5. The field test should be operated by an incorporated entity to limit liability.
  6. Care should be taken in carrying out and documenting screening procedures before approving members.
  7. The incorporated entity should carry appropriate insurance.

For the full report: Flexible Carpool Study (2009)

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